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Question about Divorce


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#1 SeanN

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 03:26 PM

1 Corinthians 7:39 (NKJV) "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."

How is this verse consistent with the fact that divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, while the husband is still living?

 

 

 

Matthew 5:32 (NKJV)

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery;"



#2 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 07:05 PM

We have to read Holy Scripture with the mind of the Church, that is, in the light of what the Church teaches so we cannot consider the matter on the basis of Holy Scripture alone.



#3 SeanN

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 10:21 PM

We have to read Holy Scripture with the mind of the Church, that is, in the light of what the Church teaches so we cannot consider the matter on the basis of Holy Scripture alone.

Agreed. Have the Fathers wrote any homilies/commentaries on 1 Cor. 7:39? 



#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 06:33 AM

There is this from St John Chrysostom, Commentary on 1 Corinthians, Homily 19:

'Now if we have passed lightly by what he says of virginity, let no one accuse us of negligence; for indeed an entire book has been composed by us upon this topic and as we have there with all the accuracy which we could, gone through every branch of the subject, we considered it a waste of words to introduce it again here. Wherefore, referring the hearer to that work as concerns these things, we will say this one thing here: We must follow after continence. For, says he, ‘follow after peace, and the sanctification without which no one shall see the Lord.’ Therefore that we may be accounted worthy to see Him, whether we be in virginity or in the first marriage or the second, let us follow after this that we may obtain the kingdom of heaven, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to Whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now, henceforth, and for everlasting ages. Amen.'
 



#5 SeanN

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 02:47 PM

Yes, it seems that Chrysostom doesn't condemn 2nd marriage, or at least doesn't directly state his moral stance on it. He doesn't address how to understand 1 Cor. 7:39, though.

 

I don't mean to be difficult. I just want to understand how to exegete 1 Cor 7:39 logically. If the wife is bound to a husband as long as he lives, then does that mean that one is bound to his/her spouse, even if the spouse is an unrepentant adulterer or abuser? I suppose one can say that Paul's commandment presupposes the faithfulness of the spouse, and that the spirit of the commandment is love and faithfulness to each other, even at hard times. However, I feel that that might cross into eisegesis territory.  


Edited by SeanN, 24 September 2016 - 02:48 PM.


#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 03:34 PM

I think rather than focusing on one passage of scripture, it is more helpful to see what the Church says with the benefit of her dealings with these matters, which she does from a patristic understanding. This article is an example of what is available: http://www.goarch.or...-and-wife-abuse



#7 Anna Stickles

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 04:05 PM

Yes, it seems that Chrysostom doesn't condemn 2nd marriage, or at least doesn't directly state his moral stance on it. He doesn't address how to understand 1 Cor. 7:39, though.

 

I don't mean to be difficult. I just want to understand how to exegete 1 Cor 7:39 logically. If the wife is bound to a husband as long as he lives, then does that mean that one is bound to his/her spouse, even if the spouse is an unrepentant adulterer or abuser? I suppose one can say that Paul's commandment presupposes the faithfulness of the spouse, and that the spirit of the commandment is love and faithfulness to each other, even at hard times. However, I feel that that might cross into eisegesis territory.  

My take on this is that when St Paul says that a woman is bound by law - he means the laws of the culture. They were of course very strict at that time in Roman society.   Later however, as the Church and culture merged then laws started to reflect to some degree the pastoral ethic of the church. This caused many changes, including I think changes in the laws for divorce. 

 

In Church tradition we have a pastoral ethic that is not based on absolute laws, but rather on the state of those involved. Usually an abusive situation, or adultery is grounds for the Church to grant a divorce. I have also heard stories of more spiritually mature people voluntarily endure a given abusive situation or unfaithful spouse, in a way in accordance with Christ, and be praised for this.

 

I think we need to be careful not to get pulled into a hermeneutic that dissociates our interpretation of Scripture, not only from Tradition, but also from the culture/circumstance it was written in, trying to create out of this or that verse abstract universal principles. Every verse of Scripture, every theological apologetic, every spiritual instruction was written to a particular group of people, who were in a particular circumstance, at a particular time, and who were culturally formed in a particular way.  Pure logic really doesn't work as a hermeneutic.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 24 September 2016 - 04:09 PM.


#8 Anna Stickles

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 04:43 PM

I should have done my research first, but I was looking briefly at both Roman and Jewish marriage laws in the first century. They were not as strict as I thought.

 

The basic thought though is still the same.  When St Paul says "a wife is bound by law" is he not referring to the existing marriage laws?


Edited by Anna Stickles, 24 September 2016 - 04:52 PM.


#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 05:39 PM

I have seen it suggested that 'adultery' can be interpreted as meaning not only sexual infidelity but the inordinate attachment of a spouse to any activity which imperils the spouses' relationship by the one spouse's attachment to something taking precedence over his or her love for the other.



#10 SeanN

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 08:01 PM

I should have done my research first, but I was looking briefly at both Roman and Jewish marriage laws in the first century. They were not as strict as I thought.

The basic thought though is still the same. When St Paul says "a wife is bound by law" is he not referring to the existing marriage laws?

Could be. But how do we know whether he was referring to civil law or divine law?

Good post about hermeneutics and pastoral ethics.

Edited by SeanN, 24 September 2016 - 08:02 PM.


#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 08:17 PM

Re post #10, first question: what we know is what the Church has determined - see post #6.



#12 Lakis Papas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 10:46 PM

 
The following rules were valid in the early Church (and they are now valid also - but for economia some deviations are permitted) :
 
(language of the rules is of the time they were established and might seem strict today)
 
1) The second marriage is permitted in the Church only to those who remained widowed in young age, as the other spouse died, and they had no children.
2) The bigamist is not blessed with wreaths, but by the penance of two years of abstinence from Holy Communion and the trigamist by the penance of three years of abstinence from Holy Communion.
3) If those who married for the second time are elders, they enrage God and they are arranged to repentance over three years to make 24 prostrations a day.
4) A man that is married for a second time can not be ordained (apostolic Canon 17)
5) If a priest is left widow he must not marry a second time. If nevertheless dare to marry, he loses the priesthood and he is not permitted any longer to perform any priestly rituals. (6th canon of st Basil).
6) Third marriage is permitted by the Church only in great need, especially to those who do not have children until the age of 40 years.
 
As time went by, Christians found that it was very difficult to follow the above rules and nowadays even widow priests are allowed to have a second marriage in some Orthodox Churches. Though second marriage for priests is not permitted in Greece, the Association of Priests in Greece has asked the Holy Greek Orthodox Synod to lift this prohibition.
 
The matter of more than one marriage has many dimensions, and is very complex. Church tried, over the centuries, to follow strict rules that protect the uniqueness of the first marriage and to inspire her members not to proceed in more than one marriage. But, human nature is weak, thus Church tried to protect her members from falling into fornication, by allowing more than one marriage for her members.    
 
---------------------------
 
St. Basil wrote in some of his letters some answers on questions for the matter of marriage.
 
CANONS  of St Basil

On the issue of having more than one marriage:
CANON IV. In the case of trigamy and polygamy they laid down the same rule, in proportion, as in the case of digamy; namely one year for digamy (some authorities say two years); for trigamy men are separated for three and often for four years; but this is no longer described as marriage at all, but as polygamy; nay rather as limited fornication....He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife. In cases of trigamy we have accepted a seclusion of five years, not by the canons, but following the precept of our predecessors. Such offenders ought not to be altogether prohibited from the privileges of the Church; they should be considered deserving of hearing after two or three years, and afterwards of being permitted to stand in their place; but they must be kept from the communion of the good gift, and only restored to the place of communion after showing some fruit of repentance.
 
 
CANON XII. The canon absolutely excludes digamists from the ministry.
 
On the issue of second marriage 
CANON XXIV. A widow whose name is in the list of widows, that is, who is supported by the Church, is ordered by the Apostle to be supported no longer when she marries. 1 Timothy 5:11-12
There is no special rule for a widower. The punishment appointed for digamy may suffice. If a widow who is sixty years of age chooses again to live with a husband, she shall be held unworthy of the communion of the good gift until she be moved no longer by her impure desire. If we reckon her before sixty years, the blame rests with us, and not with the woman.
 
On the issue of third marriage
CANON L. There is no law as to trigamy: a third marriage is not contracted by law. We look upon such things as the defilements of the Church. But we do not subject them to public condemnation, as being better than unrestrained fornication.

 


Edited by Lakis Papas, 24 September 2016 - 10:48 PM.


#13 Lakis Papas

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 10:57 PM

  Matthew 5:32 (NKJV)

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery;"

 

This is a simple phrase that is based on a very complicated justification.

 

While the Mosaic law orders the penalty of death for sexual immorality, Christ by an unexplained move orders that one that acts with sexual immorality should be given full freedom and be released from the shackles of wedding !!! 



#14 Anna Stickles

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 06:31 PM

Could be. But how do we know whether he was referring to civil law or divine law?

 

I guess Andreas and others have already answered this, but one thing we have to avoid is seeing divine law is some absolute disconnected from our real state. Divine law is what forms the pastoral instructions in the Church. 

 

It is almost universal in Western Christianity to make out Divine Law as an unchanging and universal set of principles or laws and these are looked at in a way that makes them something existing completely separately from the real life struggles and weaknesses of human nature.

 

In the Church Fathers, Divine Law is understood within the context of the living community and real conditions in which man finds himself. So my main point is that when we read "a wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives"  we have to understand this within the overall context, not make of it an absolute principle for all times and places.

 

One thing I did read though in regards the reluctance to allow a second marriage while the spouse was still living, is that even if the two were separated because of some abusive or adulterous situation, the innocent spouse was encouraged to not only forgive, but also to avoid remarriage so as to give their spouse the chance to repent and thus heal the relationship.  This ascetic effort of selflessness for the sake of their spouse, like any selfless ascetic effort, is what we are called to as Christians, and it is the type of effort that attracts God's grace and helps us to grow in Christ-likeness.



#15 Anna Stickles

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 06:38 PM

One of the things that has led to the loss of the Church's moral authority, is when it becomes rule based, without understanding how these rules were originally given, not as absolutes, but as guides towards selflessness. Lists of canons retain the rules, but to be meaningful the moral imperative within these canons has to be understood as well.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 25 September 2016 - 06:45 PM.


#16 SeanN

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:44 PM

Thanks, Anna! Very helpful answer.

And thanks everyone else for your posts, too.

#17 Lakis Papas

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 06:03 PM

One of the things that has led to the loss of the Church's moral authority, is when it becomes rule based, without understanding how these rules were originally given, not as absolutes, but as guides towards selflessness. Lists of canons retain the rules, but to be meaningful the moral imperative within these canons has to be understood as well.

 

"It's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.":  this canon was explained by St Gregory Palamas through a complex theological concept that, since he wrote it, only some academics or theologians might understand what he meant by it. 



#18 Kosta

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:47 PM

1 Corinthians 7:39 (NKJV) "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord."

How is this verse consistent with the fact that divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, while the husband is still living?

 

 

 

Matthew 5:32 (NKJV)

"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery;"

 

The standard of the church is one spouse per lifetime. If a person seperates or divorces their spouse they ought to remain single. Second (and even third) marriages are allowed for younger widowed individuals who are in reproductive age and have had no children.

 

Now the Shepherd of Hermas explains that one should not wed a second time if their original spouse is still alive implying it puts an end to a possible repentance and reconciliation. So if the church judges that the marriage is dead and no hope of reconciling exists it grants a second marriage even if the first spouse is still alive. Adultery is viewed as an abandonment, hence in the OT Malachi 2.13-16 God says he hates divorce and scolds anyone who is faithless to the wife of their youth.  This is also symbolic of those who abandoned the God of Israel whoring after foreign idols. It is abandonment so the Church extends divorce to other sins that fit the mold of abandonment, whether spousal abuse, imprisonment for crimes, apostasy etc.



#19 Olga

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 11:02 PM

Second (and even third) marriages are allowed for younger widowed individuals who are in reproductive age and have had no children.

 

Not quite. Historical practice shows that young widows and widowers with children are also permitted to remarry, for the sake of the welfare of the children.



#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:16 AM

The Church at all times has in view the pastoral needs of her members, and in our time, when life expectancy is greater than in former times, a widowed spouse of a certain age, say in his 50s, may marry since thirty years or so is a long time to spend alone. If it was not good, as God said, for the man to be alone in Paradise, how much more true is that in our fallen world?






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